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Campaigns kick off as election date announced

By Salome Modebadze
Friday, August 3
Parliamentary elections will be held on October 1, spokesperson of President Mikheil Saakashvili said on August 1, exactly two months before the Election Day. According to Manana Manjgaladze, the president hoped that the upcoming elections would be free and fair with transparent election campaigns.

“The Georgian President is confident that October’s election will be another sign of the maturation and viability of Georgia’s statehood,” Manjgaladze said, stressing that the accuracy of the voters’ list, the presence of international observers, the Must Carry obligations for cable networks and the document about the norms of behavior for political parties, will make the upcoming elections “exemplary.”

The ruling United National Movement (UNM) MP Chiora Taktakishvili said that the parliamentary elections will give every citizen the opportunity to vote for the political faction they think would better address the challenges Georgia is facing today.

The opposition parties expressed their readiness for the Election Day, but most of them disapproved of the date. According to the Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM), the Election Day may cause some problems to the majoritarian candidates, especially in large cities because of the tourist season. However, CDM leader Giorgi Targamadze said they would go everywhere the voters’ will be. New Rights leader Davit Gamkrelidze said the end of October would be a better period.

Spokesperson of the Democratic Movement United Georgia, Bakur Bakuradze, found the president’s decision legitimate but cynical.

Labor Party leader Shalva Natelashvili encouraged the voters to vote for his team and thus, save Georgia from “Saakashvili-Ivanishvili’s gang of pro-American billionaires trading with the homeland.” Discontent with the date of the upcoming parliamentary election, Natelashvili said the president has deliberately coincided the date with the beginning of Russia’s military training in the Caucasus to use this as an opportunity to scare the voters with the possible danger the country may face without his leadership.

Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream political coalition welcomed the election date. The coalition’s spokesperson Maia Panjikidze said they would “defeat the government” any time no matter the date of the election. She said the Georgian Dream started the election campaign a long time ago and has opened regional offices and introduced almost all their majoritarian candidates. “We have got our plan and we are following it quite calmly and peacefully,” she said.

National-Democratic Party MP Guram Chakhvadze thinks that every political leader was aware that the Election Day would be at the beginning of October. He said for those parties who want to gain parliamentary membership, summer should not be the obstacle. “We should not blame the heat,” he said, referring to the parties who disapproved the date.

Meanwhile, long and short term international observers are expected to come to Georgia and monitor the elections. The first group of observers will arrive in Georgia in September. The elections will be monitored by the observers of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, European Parliament, European Council and the NATO parliamentary assembly.

Although Election Day is Monday, the Central Election Commission (CEC) Chairman, Zurab Kharatishvili, hoped that the working day will not have a great influence on the results of the elections, as it is a common practice abroad.